The peloton arrives in mainland Italy for the first time for what is expected to be another stage for the sprinters. Juan Pedro López (Trek-Segafredo) should have no problems defending his pink jersey on a stage that features just one small climb early on, especially as the threat of crosswinds remains only an outside chance as the forecast is for sunny weather and only moderate breezes. The likes of Mark Cavendish (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) and Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) should therefore be set to do battle once more.
Palmi > Scalea, 192km
Almost 200km long and heading in a directly northwards direction along the coast, this stage seems designed to get the Giro up the nation as quickly as possible. There’s barely anything on the route to slow it down, with just one category four climb crested 34km into the stage that won’t pose anyone any problems.
The only factor that could disrupt the day’s tranquillity, considering the stage’s proximity to the Tyrrhenian coast, are crosswinds, although the wind doesn’t tend to be as strong here as it can get at, say, the coast of Brittany during the Tour de France.
It follows that this should be a big bunch sprint, and a long, flat, straight run-in to the finish in Scalea increases that likelihood. With just one roundabout to pass over 3.5km from the finish, there will be a long, drawn-out battle between the lead-out trains battling for the prime spot at the front of the peloton.
With no climbs to worry about, the sprinters that were dropped during today’s stage should all be back in contention at today’s finish.
Mark Cavendish (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) in particular will be rueing having missed the chance to sprint for another stage victory, especially considering the lack of chances for the sprinters at the Giro. The Manxman was in flying form at the first bunch sprint on stage three, and will be hard to beat if he gets a smooth run-in to the line.
Image: Zac Williams/SWPix
That said, the man who finished second behind him on stage three, Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), could be a different prospect now that he’s landed his own stage win. The Frenchman had been on a long winless streak stretching back to the end of last season, but now he has that monkey off his back, more could follow; after all, upon winning his first stage at the 2020 Giro, he went on to claim another three.
Demare also now has the Maglia Ciclamino to defend, the battle for which is now heating up. Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) is second in the classification, 22 points behind, but has picked up his points more through consistency rather than coming close to winning a stage. He’s also had problems getting boxed in during the finales, so could be in contention if able to get a clear run on the line.
Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) is third just five points behind Girmay, and is getting closer and closer to earning himself a stage win having placed second yesterday just behind Demare. Giacomo Nizzolo (Israel-Premier Tech) was also much improved at yesterday’s sprint, placing third having only managed eleventh on stage three.
By contrast, Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) is getting further and further away from success, being dropped on the climb on stage five having already struggled to get into contention in the previous bunch sprint. Considering how he’s usually one of the better climbers among the sprinters, we can only assume that he’s still suffering from his stage one crash, so may struggle to be in the mix tomorrow.
And knowing his love for aggressive racing, Mathieu van der Poel is the kind of rider who could instruct his Alpecin-Fenix team to try to break the race apart in the event of crosswinds. Given his strength and classics credentials, he’s the kind of rider who could win from a reduced bunch sprint.
Hell hath no fury like a scorned Mark Cavendish, and he’ll be itching to take revenge on the sprinters who ensured he didn’t get back into the peloton after being dropped. Even if crosswinds do transpire, his QuickStep-AlphaVinyl are arguably the world’s best team in such circumstances, so he’s unlikely to be missing from whatever group makes it to the finish to contest the win this time.